Singapore Premier League players undergo Covid-19 swab tests
Vital step taken for league's restart, as players like Hyrulnizam back regular testing
The Singapore Premier League (SPL) moved one step closer to resumption after players from the eight local-based clubs and match officials underwent Covid-19 tests at the former Siglap Secondary School campus in Pasir Ris yesterday.
An all-clear from the tests would prove not only vital in the resumption of the SPL, which has been suspended since March 24, but also in the successful completion of Singapore's only professional sports league.
Albirex Niigata goalkeeper Hyrulnizam Juma'at acknowledged the importance of frequent testing, understood to be conducted once every fortnight, and backed it despite describing the procedure as "uncomfortable".
"I agree with regular testing as safety cannot be compromised," Hyrulnizam told The New Paper yesterday.
"We also want the league to carry on without any disruption. So by having regular tests, in addition to the safety measures in place, the league is giving the Government the assurance that we are doing this professionally."
It was a sentiment shared by Tampines Rovers defender Baihakki Khaizan and Lion City Sailors striker Stipe Plazibat.
Plazibat, who left Hougang United to join the Sailors only last month, said: "This is the new norm for footballers all over the world, so we also need to follow instructions of the relevant authorities.
"The Singapore Government has done a lot to contain the virus, so it's safer for everyone that all the players are tested first."
As part of the procedure, SPL players and match officials had swabs inserted through both their nostrils and also down their throats, prompting different reactions from those TNP spoke to.
"Initially, a lot of us were fearful as we thought it would be a painful process," the 33-year-old Hyrulnizam said.
"But at the end of it, it was a funny feeling... it was really uncomfortable to the point that some of us had teared."
While Plazibat, 31, expected the procedure to be more uncomfortable, Baihakki had no complaints, as he knew what to anticipate following the "surprise" he had when he took his first swab test in Thailand.
The 36-year-old was tested during his time with Thai League 1 side PT Prachuap, whom he left in April before joining the Stags in June.
"It gave me some sort of electric-shock feeling," said Baihakki of his first experience.
"I was expecting that the testers would swipe just the inner part of the nose, but was surprised that it went even further and into my nostrils.
"But for the test here, I knew what was coming. Also, I was told to breathe from my mouth, so that helped too."
Last Tuesday, the Football Association of Singapore said that an all-clear from the swab tests will be a big step towards the resumption of the SPL.
The results of yesterday's tests are expected within five days, but the final call on the league's restart date can be made only after clearance is given by the relevant government agencies.
"We are eager to play," said Hyrulnizam. "For my Japanese teammates, they are in Singapore to play football, it is their No. 1 priority. So we are all just keen to start as soon as possible."
Baihakki concurred, saying, "this is the moment we have been waiting for", adding that the SPL restart would be a boost to football lovers in the country.
"Not only players, everyone at the club... as a whole nation, we are looking forward to the restart," he said.
"With SPL carrying on, then everyone from (the amateur National Football League) Division 1 to boys at the social level will get a better idea... as I get that they are using us as an indication (as) to when they can play football again."